Book Review: Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop

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Reviewed by Maria Elena Buszek

Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop

Edited by Laura Barcella

(Soft Skull)

If the way the Interwebz blew up the minute she hit the stage at the 2012 Super Bowl is any indication, Madonna has not lost her ability to provoke and fascinate—even as she approaches the end of her third decade as a pop icon. This fact is on abundant display in the new anthology Madonna and Me, edited by journalist (and BUST contributor) Laura Barcella.

The 40 contributing authors, artists, and activists range from Texas-born grandma Gloria Feldt to Pakistani-born satirist Soniah Kamal, and largely zero in on what Feldt calls Madonna’s willingness to speak sexual truth to power. Specifically, the “power” of patriarchy to control women’s sexuality, which Madonna has publicly defied in her sexually-charged music and performances, her AIDS activism, and her style of motherhood.

In fact, the theme of Madonna’s motherhood reoccurs throughout Madonna and Me, with all the conflicting messages that entails. Those conflicts are the most interesting parts of the book, which is no hagiography. Many contributors first look to Madonna as a (sexual, spiritual, professional) “mother,” only to grow frustrated or disappointed with, and ultimately apart from her over the years. Yet, they suggest, we still seek her out, almost despite ourselves, as a touchstone of ideal femininity. As the reliably snarky critic Cintra Wilson admits in her contribution: love her or loathe her, “after 25 years, Madonna is still at the forefront of our cultural consciousness, and that, as well as I can guess, is the point of Madonna: She always wins.”

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